Then Comes Anger

By Ramzy Nasrallah on March 29, 2011 at 12:58p

If you repeated it to yourself enough times throughout the season, you might have actually begun to believe it was true: There are no great teams in college basketball this year.  There are no great teams in college basketball this year.  There are no great teams in college basketball this year.  It’s a clever device you can use to shift your reality to one that’s more easily digestible.  You’re not fat; you just have big bones.  Or a slow metabolism. Metabolism.  Metabolism.  Metabolism.

The 2010-11 sports-you-truly-care-about seasons are now at their conclusion, and Ohio State had the legitimate capability to win the national title in both football and basketball.  It is still an incredibly a rare opportunity, despite the fact that Ohio State lost both respective title games as recently as 2006-7.  This year’s Buckeyes also blew it on both accounts, though neither got as tantalizingly close as its predecessors did.  It is very easy as well as counterproductive and unhealthy to get twisted up about championships that never happened.  Let’s go ahead and do it anyway.

Once you get past the play-in games, there are 63 NCAA tournament teams every March that don’t get to win the title.  This year’s lucky team will either be a four, five, eight or 11 seed, which means that at best the NCAA selection committee’s 16th team into the tournament will win the championship.  As you’re painfully aware, the Buckeyes were its first team in.  Squandering the title is not unusual in the NCAA tournament; it’s the norm.  The overall #1 seed regularly goes home disappointed, kicking the curb and cursing about what could have been. 

Speaking of those play-in games, one of its participants is still somehow dancing five games later.  VCU’s run to the Final Four is especially delicious for the masses since it transpired a mere two weeks after one of ESPN’s roundtables where the Rams’ resume was shat upon with feigned outrage by all participants, suggesting that the annoying, oral diarrhea disorder Dick Vitale has depressingly parlayed into a lucrative broadcasting career has suddenly grown communicable.

The Rams are managed by sudden coaching sensation Shaka Smart, who is not only fascinating because he’s a former Kenyon Lord point guard and Akron Zip assistant but because his name is really fun to say.  Smart, who won’t turn 34 until next week, has VCU in the Final Four in his second year, beating Thad Matta (a fun name to say in its own right) by a full season, albeit without the shackles of inherited probation from Jim O’Brien. 


Matta, with his squad ranked at or near the top of all polls throughout the year won all of two games in the tournament.  Smart, whose team’s inclusion in the tournament was universally mocked, has already won five.  While VCU’s run is surprising by any measure, it is the only bigger tournament surprise than Ohio State’s abbreviated tournament following a 32-2 season.  Yes, including Butler, who played in last year's title game.

The cruelty of it all would be unfair if it weren’t so completely and utterly self-inflicted.  While professional trolls like Clay Travis fuel their public catharsis with short memories and even shorter attention spans, there’s no amount of yokel bear-poking that can match what Ohio State has done to itself.  Gene Smith was the NCAA Tournament committee chairman, and he promptly rewarded his school’s overall top ranking with a trip to the FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU region.  Perhaps he was distracted, which is understandable but still inexcusable.

The FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU region is not to blame for the Buckeyes’ demise as much as Ohio State is.  William Buford’s putrid 2-16 shooting performance was made worse by how uncharacteristic it was of a team that was lauded all year for its unselfishness.  There is nothing in basketball on any level that is more selfish than continually chucking bad shots when your mojo never made it out of the locker room.  But with a team as talented as Ohio State, you cannot beat them by simply having one player play poorly.

From a coaching standpoint, Matta was barely better than Buford on Friday.  Being hands-off and allowing your veteran team to run itself is a fine strategy.  Within that overall strategy a championship coach needs to be prepared to make tactical changes, and quickly.  Kentucky’s John Harrellson was 7-9 shooting and had ten rebounds; five of the particularly crippling offensive variety.  The problems he was causing the Buckeyes were evident very early on.  In related news, Dallas Lauderdale played all of five minutes.  Five.  This wasn’t about Matta using a short bench; it was about allowing matchup problems to fester for 35 of the game’s 40 minutes.

Matta does not need any assistance with the big picture stuff.  Getting the macro elements of a football or basketball program right will win you a lot of conference championships.  That’s mostly strategic; recruiting well and managing the grind of a season.  He's locked in with the AAU framework and is going to have his pick of elite high school talent as long as he chooses to do so.  Unfortunately, recruiting by itself doesn't win championships - taking six games in a row in a world where luck isn’t always a reliable asset also requires tactical superiority.  This is a skill that he does not appear to have locked down.  Ohio State played its worst game of the season against a team with no bench and handed Kentucky every possible tactical advantage and still only lost by two. 

Winning by one wouldn’t have made his game plan any better; it just would have prevented it from being another season-ending failure. The Buckeyes were in crisis on Friday night and the players’ answer to that crisis was Buford declaring war on reasonable shot selection.  He was given too many opportunities to prolong his off-night while Jared Sullinger absorbed much of Kentucky’s defense.  It’s very difficult to tell a cold but determined shooter to stop shooting.  You have to take the ball out of his hands.

It’s not overly demanding to suggest that Ohio State should be able to win an NCAA title in basketball more than once every 51 years.  Similarly, Ohio State should be able to win the NCAA title in football more than once every 34 years.  The university simply has too many superior natural and manufactured resources at its disposal to be content with high finishes.

Fortunately for Ohio State’s image, it has been a tournament of spectacular flameouts for all of the top seeds.  Pitt couldn’t even escape the first weekend, Duke was shredded by Arizona in a manner that hadn’t been seen in March since UNLV beat them by 30 a couple of decades ago and Kansas had a Jayhawk Classic-caliber gauntlet path to Houston and couldn’t make it work to its advantage. 

The Jayhawks were especially bad; escalating a reputation for choking in March that not even the 2008 national title has been able to erase by missing almost half of their free throws after predictably drawing a ton of fouls from the overmatched VCU.  Kansas made a putrid two of 21 three-point shots, which as a team was worse than Buford was from all over the floor on Friday.  Kansas also has two national titles over the past quarter century.  Losing in the Elite Eight is catastrophic when you’re expected to get to the title every year and frequently do. While the Jayhawks were cutting down the nets in 2008, the Buckeyes were doing the same thing – but at Madison Square Garden, in the consolation tournament you haven't paid attention to since 2008.

It is fine to be satisfied with Big Ten title dynasties, but what Ohio State is constructed for demands that type of return at minimum.  There is no reason, no stacked bracket and no Cinderella that should have stood between this uniquely talented and veteran Ohio State team and a deeper tournament run.  While there are no great teams in the 2011 Final Four, there actually was one great team this season.  There was one.  There was one.  There was one.


Comments Show All Comments

Maestro's picture

Hoping Buford takes his 2 for infinity right to the NBA.  Never have liked that cat.

That being said, this team could very easily still be playing minus one Brandon Knight shot and an OT surge.  That's how delicate the balance is at "The Tourney".

vacuuming sucks

Chris Lauderback's picture

I respect your opinion but I couldn't disagree more. Why would you hope Buford leaves?

Has he not been a productive player? I know he can be inconsistent - he's a college basketball perimeter player - but I think he really does try to play the right way. He takes some bad shots but I've always appreciated that it's because he's a scorer, not a ballhog. Plus, it's not like Thad Matta is Bobby Knight when it comes to scaring kids into not pulling the trigger if they think they are open. The kid's never been in any real trouble, he's had some very, very solid games over his career and he's improved his overall skills throughout. I'm not saying he's Jordan but I see no reason to not want him to come back. He contributed just as much to the majority of those 34 wins as he did the 3 defeats.

It blows my mind that folks can say they'd rather go into next year without a proven player like Buford on the roster.

Maestro's picture

I have just never liked his game.  Nothing personal. 

vacuuming sucks

RB's picture

I gotta stick of for Will here.  He's been, and hopefully will continue to be, a great Buckeye.  My understanding is that he is as dedicated to the team as can be.  Supposedly they can't keep him out of the gym, and he is loved by all teammates both older and younger.  He stays out of trouble, and again supposedly, carries a great repuation on campus as a all round good guy.  When;s he's on, he is silky smooth and so much fun to watch.  No one feels worse than he does for the Sweet 16 lose, but I am confident the season would not have been nearly as great as it was leading up to theat game without the WB.  I really hope he puts off the Association for one more year (again) in the S&G #44.

JakeBuckeye's picture

Since you certainly aren't being a dick about it, I won't be a dick either, but I do strongly disagree.

Scott K's picture

"...suggesting that the annoying, oral diarrhea disorder Dick Vitale has depressingly parlayed into a lucrative broadcasting career has suddenly grown communicable."

lol...i almost shat myself...

But besides that, what's the point of this article other than to speculate on the what ifs?  Yeah, they lost.  We usually do.  Are the expectations high at tOSU?  Yeah, they are.  You point out the gaps in NC's and MNC's, but somehow seem surprised when losing happens...

We beat uM 4 times this year.  Do I want more?  Hell yeah, but that in and of it self makes for a good fb/bb season.


"There's a fine line between stupid, and....clever.  David St. Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel

The_Lurker's picture

If Buford's last shot goes in, no one cares that he went 3-of-16 (his total had he made it). Matta could (should) have pulled him and asked him to distribute more or somehow calm down and find his rhythm, but Matta has allowed players to shoot out of slumps before. Just recently there was the Buford/Lighty game, with each stinking in one half and scorching the rims in the other half. I'm sure Matta was concerned with Thomas' inability to defend and the matchup with Lauderdale. Personally, I think Sully can handle Jones for short periods, and you can let Lauderdale deal with Harrellson for that long.

I'm more pissed about the 10 missed layups - everyone who played except Deshaun Thomas and Dallas Lauderdale had at least one. You don't beat good teams by leaving 20 points on the floor. Sully defended the pick and roll like a freshman. Craft shot like one (0-for-5, plus missing the front end of a 1-and-1). It was still almost good enough.

Buford's done a lot of good things at Ohio State, and not too many bad things. He may end up the school's all-time leading scorer. I'm not sure what else a guy has to do to earn some kind of respect. I'm sure no one feels worse about his misses and shot selection than he does.

In the end, I'm of the opinion that shit happens. And that shit usually happens to us.

KenK's picture

Yes, Lurker, yes.

Johnny Hooker: "He's not as tough as he thinks". Henry Gondorff: "Neither are we".

Scott K's picture


"There's a fine line between stupid, and....clever.  David St. Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel

btalbert25's picture

I still contend that if George Mason put up any fight the first week Ohio State beats UK.  They looked like a team that won by a margin of over 30 for the first 2 games in the tournament.  They played sloppy at times, threw the ball out of bounds, dribbled off of feet, missed wide open 3's and layups.  It was ugly.

Can you really put that loss on Matta?  Do we know if he did or didn't talk to Buford about shot selection?  If you pull out Buford and put Thomas in there, we know he's going to jack up a shot every time he touches the ball.  I don't know.  If Ohio State shoots 50 percent from the field and wins by 15 or 20 no one would be here criticising Matta.  I don't see where he could've changed the lineup or shook things up that would've really made a difference. 

Execution, like in most losses, is what cost this team more than anything else. 

Chris Lauderback's picture

I don't put the loss on any one coach/player. Buford is probably most culpable but he had help. Craft's 0/5, Sully's horrible FGA's late (side of backboard and underside of rim?!), Diebler's inability to match up with Liggins down the stretch, all the missed layups, etc..

Matta said on his radio show last night that he pulled Buford early on and tried to settle him down but he talked about how you can't abandon what worked all year in game 37. Hard to argue that. I think Matta would admit he didn't have his best game. I know he never calls TO but I will never understand how you don't call TO down 2 points with 5.4 seconds left with a freshman point guard. I don't care about Ron Lewis or whatever. I like calling a TO there. That's just my opinion. Regardless, Matta clearly wasn't alone in having a bad game at the wrong time.

cal3713's picture

I know it's been said a number of times by a number of people, but I still have no problem with the lack of time out.  The strategy was an inch and a half from working.

KenK's picture

We weren't exactly scorching the nets from our set offense; I have no problem with trying to get some points on-the fly in teh last 5 seconds.

Johnny Hooker: "He's not as tough as he thinks". Henry Gondorff: "Neither are we".

btalbert25's picture

the only problem I have with it is that the ball went where it did.  I would've put the ball in Diebs hands and let him take it up and try to pop it.  He had hit a deep 3 with a defender in his face the possession before.


KenK's picture

BTA, I see what you mean. My question is this; when Craft & Co came zooming down the floor, what were his angles/vision to see someone other that WB? If I hadn't erased the game I could have answered that; since I did, I can't. Anyone?

Johnny Hooker: "He's not as tough as he thinks". Henry Gondorff: "Neither are we".

The_Lurker's picture

Craft's options were:

1) Buford in front of him, in plain sight
2) Lighty on his right, but there was some traffic and he may not have seen him
3) Diebler trailing on the play. I may be wrong, but I think Diebs inbounded the ball.

Craft may not have though he had the time to look for Diebler, and he may not have seen Lighty through the traffic, however, his hands were pretty much tied. Buford was the obvious choice because he was open, in plain sight, and ahead of him. For his part, Buford took the semi-open three, and I can't argue with that particular shot selection, but he probably also had JUST enough time to drive to the rim for a tying basket and/or foul shots.


cronimi's picture

A timeout would have allowed them to set up Diebs or Lighty for the three (and still threaten an inside play to Sully to take it to OT).  Can't say it would have worked, and as GrayDay points out below, it would have allowed UK to set up their D, but I think the timeout was a better call.  Running the fast break down the court put the Buckeyes at the mercy of UK's player location -- it didn't matter whether UK played good D on the last play, it just mattered where their players were positioned relative to the Buckeye shooters -- and resulted in one of the team's coldest shooters on the day getting the last shot.  

I don't put all the blame on WB -- there's plenty to go around among players and coaches -- but because it was the last shot, WB became the goat.

GrayDay's picture

 A time out would have enabled UK to set its defense.  Maybe Buford wasn't the ideal shooter at that point, but UK certainly wouldn't have allowed Diebs or Lighty to shoot.  Craft pushing it up fast gave opportunity for open shot, which we got.

Matt's picture

Meanwhile, in Knoxville:

Former Tennessee QB Erik Ainge and all-around drug addict admits that Tennessee players got free drugs because they were Tennesee players:

"I was hooked on them [pain killers] and I was playing football, and there was no way I was going to cancel my senior year by going to rehab. I started getting them from people, buying them, getting them off the street. I wasn't the only player on the team that was doing it, so we knew people. It wasn't, like, super sketchy or anything. We knew people who had them, and we were Tennessee football players, so they pretty much just gave them to us."


"I went to Tennessee to visit friends, and I had some trouble with the law. It never got reported because the cops were Tennessee fans, and they saw how bad a shape I was in."

/ Improper benefits/illegal drugs FTW

 / Clay Travis says nothing to see here folks move along.


tampa buckeye's picture

Clearly they missed PJ Hill this year.


In all seriousness Ohio State played their worst game in months and that is why they lost. Uk gets some credit they hit some open 3's but its over and I'm moving on.

Next year if they return Buford, Sully, Craft, and Thomas thats a great nucleus to build around.  Not to mention this recruiting class coming in has got some real big time players. Should be able to get the rotation to 8 or 9 players with 2 or 3 more pushing for p.t. Ohio State basketball is strong and will be for years to come.   

Type G's picture

Simply put, the team just tightened up and got nervous down the stretch of a very close ball game, something they haven't experienced much all season. Add the pressure of being the #1 overall seed in a win or go home type of game and those nerves are escalated 10 fold. Tightening up + being nervous = forced shots, lack of teamwork and missing freebies like FTs and layups.

I think the majority of the blame has to be put on the players for this loss, as they didn't execute what Matta may have been preaching during some of the TOs. If Matta said he tried to calm the WB down and dude still continued to jack up bad shots... who can you blame, really?

Lastly, I'm in the camp that a TO should've been called to set up a better shot (3bler) during those final 5 seconds, but a transition break is harder for the opposing team to react and defend against. So what transpired isn't something I'm going to lose sleep over; however, putting themselves in that situation where the game is on the line, due mostly to playing one of their worst games of the season... that's what's most frustrating.

"No time for love, Doctah Jones!"

DFense's picture

So a former Tennessee player (who is in trouble with the law now) makes these allegations about Tenn. and we buy it fully, but when say a former OSU recruit, makes oh i dont know similar sketchy allegations we plug our ears up and willfully pretend like we're different from every other big time college football program.


i love how everyone will read this article and 100% believe the parts about Auburn being dirty as s*it but just selectively ignore the OSU parts. Because Tressel runs a clean ship. It's not like he'd lie about concealing anyhting. That man is a shining beacon of transparencey and morality. And no boosters/alumni/random ppl in Columbus here ever do anything sketch for any player. Like renting cars or anything.  Nope, we're OSU and we're classy and clean and f*ck those SEC cheaters who beat the tar out of us on the field. 

JakeBuckeye's picture

Here's an idea: Actually get somebody on here to say the things you say we are all saying before you go on a baseless rant. Nobody has even talked about this article on here, dude.

Matt's picture

So let me get this straight:

We paid the recruit money...

We ensured that our coeds had sex with him on his official visit...

He gave a verbal committment to Ohio State on the spot...



And he still  signed with Auburn over OSU?





btalbert25's picture

Auburn has a higher payroll, ask Mississippi State.


Conroy's picture

If this kid got a $1000 to come to OSU there is no way Pryor would have ever needed to sell any of his stuff for cash.

BuckeyeChief's picture

Random dumb thought of the day: Any chance TP gets any burn on the hardwood next season?


"2014 National with it!!!"

AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

I actually heard from some players that TP had planned to play this year but had to rehab the surgery.

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

JakeBuckeye's picture

Well, he tweeted about it. Then tatgate happened, then the injury happened.

costinjr's picture

It's been said, but UK was a team like Wiscy and Purdue. I know we straight hammed them at home, but good guard play and a big down low hurt us. I don't care how poised Sully is, getting that ball straight blasted at his chest rattled him, even if that meant trying to hard to go at Harrellson. Any other player other than Sully and maybe Craft would get a retaliation technical foul. Also Buford has spoken out about people essentially "bullying" Sullinger. I'm not saying that was why he threw up those shots and I agree it's selfish to take that many shots when you're cold, but I have a feeling Buford wanted to be the one who essentially "had Sullinger's back."


As for the TO, I do agree Matta should've called timeout when Craft got to halfcourt. You need a senior, especially Diebler shooting that at the buzzer. 

I think the thought of an offseason that's already riddled with turmoil has everyone more baffled by this game. That and losing some of the players that a lot of fans felt they had developed a relationship sucks. It's like a breakup, and that sucks. Also, I think this team A. Put OSU hoops on the map like never before, and that in itself is a feat. This team will be another contender though, and I don't think the hoops fandom will disappear. Say what you will about Buford but you might have two Naismith contenders on OSU's court next season.

BuckeyeChief's picture

Good post; since i'm not local, when did that Buford statement come out? Any links? Maybe that softens my stance.

"2014 National with it!!!"

costinjr's picture

He almost got T'd up in an earlier game, for "defending Sullinger" in a late game this year I know it happened between 2/15 against michigan state and 3/12 against michigan...I'll try and dive into some archives

BuckeyeChief's picture


"2014 National with it!!!"

Bucksfan's picture

The 2006-2007 team needed a buzzer beater to force overtime against Xavier in March of that year.  This year that bucket did not fall.  Simple as that.  Then what happens?  Ohio State ultimately gets to the title game living by the 3-ball all year long.  The perimeter shooting went to life-support, and Florida wins the game.  Oden outplayed Joakim Noah as if Noah had never played basketball before...outscored Florida in the paint 2-1.  Sound familiar?...Sully had an equally dominating performance against Kentucky.

Gotta make the shots.  This team went cold and didn't come up with something special.

By the way, the 2002 football team had to dig out special performances about 7 times that season to win it all.  It was so improbable for all of those things to go Ohio State's way that there's no way anyone will have another season like that.  If Gamble gets tackled on that punt return against Penn State, no national title.  If the ref sees Malcolm Jenkins push off at Purdue, no national title.  If that Cincy receiver didn't drop that TD pass during their 4 down stint on the 5 yard line, no national title.  If the ref decided Clarett didn't strip that ball, probably no national title.  You have to get some breaks go your way, you have to get the bounces, you have to have some magic transpire.  Shooting 32% does not get you there...unless something special happens.  In this case it didn't.

Overanalysis is unnecessary.  Can we move on from this?  It's really not that big of a deal.  They put together some great record-breaking performances and the team provided some amazing entertainment all year.  For being more of a football school, it's fun to be in the discussion.